This week's episode of the cartoon Adventure Time (titled "The Suitor") revolved around a young man named Braco courting our favorite science fanatic, Princess Bubblegum. By the end of the episode, Braco has been thoroughly rejected. In an environment where the endgame of most princess stories is love and marriage, this rejection, though not surprising (what with Braco being a guest character and Adventure Time being awesome), indicates Adventure Time's larger rejection of the toxic princess narrative that is worthy of attention.
Here are a few key words regarding Jim C. Hines's The Stepsister Scheme. Snow White, promiscuous mirror witch. Sleeping Beauty, Middle Eastern assassin. Cinderella, Pregnant Prince-rescuer. Intrigued? I was, and also by the statement given me that this was "Feminist YA fantasy! Written by a DUDE!" when it was given to me. I was not disappointed. C'mon! Princesses with weapons, spells, and babies on board? I'M IN.
"There is still pressure to do everything, do everything well, and look hot while doing it. And I think that 'and look hot while doing it' part, that's the new piece. It used to be that having it all did not include looking hot... But now it does and it includes it at a really young age. And while princesses may not be hot, per se...although one could argue—in fact I have a lot of mothers telling me that there are a lot of girls who won't stop pulling their shirts off their shoulders because princesses don't cover their shoulders—it's the first step on that road of wanting to look in somebody else's mirror to have yourself reflected, instead of looking inside yourself."
It's hard to overlook all of the negative aspects that pop up along the princess path, and I knew that I would be very particular regarding exposure and access to princesses if I had a girl. Never in a million years did it cross my mind that I would be trying to navigate the same murky waters, only with my son.
As Disney continues to sell their princesses (and make no mistake, they're selling a brand, not just characters), they continue to show us that people will eat up these negative messages as long as they're packaged in an appealing way—in this case, in pinks and purples and lots of sparkle. It's amazing how far they will actually push it.
Ah, a new twist on the classic rags-to-princess-riches tale: An American woman dreams of royalty, moves to London, continues to obsess about royalty, meets the man of her dreams, and... starts a luxury princess camp. Yes, royal enthusiast Jerramy Fine has launched Princess Prep Camp. Now, for just £2,545 (that's $3,995) per child—girls only, natch—the eight-year olds in your life can live at the height of excessive opulence, complete with a butler, for one week (airfare not included).